RobotUnion, the leading pan-European acceleration programme fully focused on robotics has announced its results as the three-year initiative funded under the Horizon 2020 programme comes to an end. The project supported 20 robotics solutions in developing their technology that would mobilize the prioritized sectors of manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, and civil infrastructure and main challenges defined in Multi-Annual Roadmap for Robotics.
The strong consortium of 14 partners gathered a constellation of Top players representing all the links of the innovation value chain from Research to Market and beyond. They had confirmed an excellent multinational collaboration by creating a unique programme where of research centres, business schools, large corporations and investors came together to create an innovative way to support Robotics companies and help them to:
•Minimize elevated costs associated with the development of specific technologies for market entry by equity-free funding and support provided
•Provide access to technology services and facilities through RTOs engaged in the project (VTT, DTI, TU DELFT, PIAP, and Tecnalia)
•Raise the advantages of robotics and automation in non-traditional markets through the RobotUnion Community and ecosystem created during the project
•Improve their Funding Journey and raise additional private funds (Blumorpho)
•Connect to the top-notch mentors and robotics experts in different strategic fields (ISDI)
•Get international exposure through events and ecosystem building (FMWC and FBOX)
THE ROBOTUNION APPROACH
The project was shaped by the combination of 4 main layers (approaches) that interacted among each other both as links of a value chain and, as a sort of holistic forces that bridge the gap among research and market take-up and beyond, acting at the same time from both sides of this gap. These approaches can be summarized as follows:
(1). Entrepreneurial discovery approach for discovery the more promising Scaleups.
(2). Demand-side pull approach for listening to the “voice of the customer” and “bankable robotics challenges” all along the process.
(3). Smart funding approach for fuelling the market deployment and the Scaleup process with ‘expert’ investors.
(4). Technology-Push approach for guaranteeing that State-of-Art technologies and scientific outcomes are well-known from the very beginning by the innovative Scaleups.
From 2 Open Calls and more than 400 submitted applications, RobotUnion has selected 20 robotics scaleups with the biggest potential (see all of them here) who entered a 12-month acceleration program that became a perfect example of the technical acceleration for robotics startups.
The Acceleration Programme was articulated as a customised service, where the high-level researchers and top business professionals are specifically selected to fit Scaleup’s needs and guide them along with the whole Program. It was divided into 4 phases with the selective funnel approach which enabled to fund the proposals with the highest technological and market potential.
4 million euros were redistributed among the selected companies in direct funding and additional business and technical services.
20 Companies engaged in both editions of the acceleration program reached ambitious goals in 3 main aspects:
- Technology: companies engaged in the project were able to use research resources (more than 40 researchers and 20 facilities engaged). That helped them to significantly raise their technical readiness level (3 points on average) and access new markets. Researchers engaged in the project published 10 Scientific research articles thank collaboration with accelerated companies.
- Business: thanks to the connection with experienced entrepreneurs and two Master Training Camps organized in Madrid (ISDI) accelerated companies were able to improve their business vision, improve absorption capabilities and network. More than 70 business mentors were involved in the program to help companies scale their business.
- Fundraising: all companies were exposed to the Investors during all the program through multiple events (Odense Invest Summit, RobotUnion Venture Jury Day, GR-EX expo). And the most promising 10 (called Super Stars) were invited to the Fundraising Journey with individual mentors advice. Total private funds raised by all companies engaged in the RobotUnion program reached an impressive number of 15M EUR.
By putting all these together, RobotUnion allowed accelerating the expansion of promising robotics innovation makers in combining within the consortium all the key assets and resources for successful innovation: technical differentiation, entrepreneurial leadership, market access, productization and access to funding.
LEADING ROBOTICS ECOSYSTEM
RobotUnion has become one of the biggest and most influential initiatives for Robotics Scaleups in Europe. Though it´s intensive and ambitious communication campaign the RobotUnion ecosystem became one of the main references for Robotics SMEs with the Community that reached 1200 users and social media accounts with 3000 followers.
During all the project duration RobotUnion team attended more than 15 events (4YFN, EU Robotics Forum, Automatica, Robotex) in 11 different countries of the European Union. Multiple panels and workshops were organized to bring the world of robotics closer to society, by focusing on the promotion of robotics technology in new markets where it’s underrepresented.
RobotUnion has also engaged external Technical Providers through the RobotUnion Marketplace were robotics services are showcased to all the community.
From the beginning of the project, one of the main goals of the RobotUnion Acceleration Program has been to ensure the sustainability of the services and efforts provided by the project beyond the project’s lifetime. This included implementing this approach in the regions linked to the project by Research Organizations or any other intermediate entities and, finally, trying to extend it also to the European Regions focused on Robotics or some of the related sectors in their Research and Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation (RIS3).
Principal sustainability model called RobotUnion Instrument was based on the concept that each Euro invested in the RobotUnion Instrument by a Region or a Corporate, one Euro will be invested by the RobotUnion Instrument in the future of European robotics companies.
RobotUnion Instrument and the lessons learned about the deployment of a smart regional specialization strategy were consulted with different European stakeholders and were presented during the Week of Regions and Cities organized by EC on 13th October 2020 through the workshop “Regional smart specialization: Robotics”.
RobotUnion consortium network and ecosystem created around the project will continue promoting innovation network that brings together expertise in the field of robotics research, business and fundraising to support future #RoboticsChampions beyond the project.
RobotUnion is the first pan-European acceleration programme funded under the Horizon 2020 programme fully focused on scaleups and SMEs in the robotics sector. During the last 3 years, 14 partners have created one-in-all acceleration program that supported 20 companies to increase their capability and develop novel and innovative technologies in domains like Manufacturing, Agro Food, Healthcare and Civil infrastructure.